In February of 2020, I lost my mother. It still feels weird to type this statement. And, it was every bit as challenging as I thought it would be. Even though my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma back in 2009, I never really considered losing her as an option. I partly blame her for that. My mom never let her diagnosis keep her from living life to the fullest, and she never saw it as a death sentence. She remained hopeful and encouraged with each doctor’s visit (no matter the outcome) and sweetly scolded me if I ever appeared to grow weary or discouraged by any report that we received from the doctor.
I guess this would be a good time to tell you that I also lost my father just three months before losing my mother. Coping with grief is something I’ve accepted that I’ll do for the rest of my life. Three years later, I’m still figuring out how to navigate life without my parents.
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How do you cope with losing someone?
When I lost my dad, I didn’t have time to process it because my mom’s health condition took a quick turn for the worse. I had to hurry and wipe the tears so that I could be what I needed to be for my mother. I spent the next several weeks moving mom into my home (against her will, might I add) and seeing firsthand what it meant to be her (primary) caregiver.
For ten years, my dad had worn that badge (primary caregiver) proudly. He was pretty much in charge of taking mom to her appointments when she was unable to take herself. He also ran all related errands: picking up meals, fetching prescriptions, doing grocery store runs, answering phone calls, and whatever else was needed. Dad did these things without complaining (very often).
For the most part, Mom’s condition allowed her to live a relatively productive life. If you didn’t know her personally, you probably wouldn’t even have known that she was sick…most of the time.
This is the short of it. I’ll fast forward to now (the real purpose of this post).
On February 27 (the day after my mother passed away), there would have been NOTHING that you could have told me that would have made me think that I would be able to go on.
I could not see past the moment. And at that moment, all I could see and feel was numbness, emptiness, and the most profound sorrow imaginable. However, I also knew (at that moment) that there was no way that I could function in numbness, emptiness, and deep sorrow. But, I couldn’t just dismiss what I was feeling.
Here are five things that I am currently doing to cope with my grief:
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- Prayer. I grew up going to church and learning about the power of prayer. However, I’m human and have to admit that I have had many doubts about prayer, especially concerning coping with the loss of my parents. I must say that through prayer, I’ve been able to express my feelings about losing my parents, which has been very helpful. It also gives me a sense of comfort that I’m unable to explain. Just trust me. Prayer is helpful when coping with grief.
- Increased time with family and friends. I make it a point not to be alone too often. (COVID-19 helped me with that.) Because of the quarantine, I spent some much-needed time with my husband and children, which was very therapeutic for me. The “slow down” that COVID forced me to take time to focus on the simple things. We played board games, watched movies, cooked meals, taken walks, made TikTok videos, and sat up late night after night laughing and talking. It has made my heart smile.
- Therapy. I was not a fan of therapy in the beginning. I’ll just say it: Counseling and therapy have not traditionally been included on the list of options for Black women to choose from because we have so often been taught to cope in other ways. I’m glad that I bucked the system and went anyway, despite my doubts. I started therapy just before COVID and I was really upset when I thought that I’d have to quit due to the shutdown of many businesses. I’m so thankful that technology made it possible for me to continue because I had really gained some momentum with my counselor and I didn’t want to lose that. Therapy allows me to talk about my feelings openly, which is way more helpful than I gave it credit for being. I am thankful for my friends who encouraged me to seek therapy to help me properly deal with my grief.
- Exercising. On the advice of a friend, I began waking up an extra 30 minutes earlier every morning to dedicate some time to exercise. I also purchased a bike for home use to make this a bit easier for me. Over the past 10 weeks, I have maintained exercising 30-45 per day for a minimum of 5 days a week. I’ve reached that goal consecutively, and often I’ve exceeded it. In addition to losing weight (probably the benefit that I love the most), I’ve found myself being more energized and in an overall better mood. I also have that sense of pride that comes along with meeting a goal. It’s a wonderful feeling.
- Blogging. You know how every person has a thing? Well, for me, that thing is writing. I love writing, especially when I’m able to choose my own topic. This blog for me is my happy place. It’s a place for me to call my own. Now, blogging is even more special to me. My mom always complimented me on my writing and always came to me for assistance when she had something to write. Mom always gave me the sweetest and most encouraging compliments when it came to my writing. Every time I make a blog post, I will think of her. I will work hard to make her proud.
These are five things that have helped me to cope with losing my parents. One thing I know for sure is that no one formula works for everyone. I work hard each day to find the combination of things that will help me make it through the tough times. Sometimes, it’s as simple as going for a walk and sometimes, it’s me lying in bed for extended periods sobbing in my pillow. I do, however, know is that I am committed to staying on a path that will help me to take care of my physical and mental health. I love my parents so much and I know that they would want me coping and not caving. That alone is enough for me to choose joy, even while grieving.
In dealing with my own grief, I’ve also learned that connecting with others who have experienced the loss of loved ones is helpful. If you’re reading this, I suspect that you may be dealing with grief as well. Can you relate to any of the methods that I’m using to deal with grief? Do you have some additional suggestions for things that you have found to be successful in your journey? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.